Possessions

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My family left South Africa in 1960 because of Apartheid, the policy of systematic discrimination against people of color. My cousin Raymond Suttner was a law professor who worked with the African National Congress for civil rights. He was arrested and tortured, and finally imprisoned on Robben Island along with Nelson Mandela.
In the late 1980’s I walked into a store in Los Angeles to buy a pair of work boots, and overheard the salesman talking about the country formally known as Rhodesia, which had recently become Zimbabwe. He was saying, “They don’t know how to rule themselves. They’ll just become another poverty-stricken African nation.” He was implying that black Africans were somehow less capable of governing.
In South Africa during Apartheid, a few million white people had lived off the income of fifteen million black people. That minority made the country look rich, but it was an illusion.
Following a yelling match at the shoe store, I arrived back at my studio and angrily hurled a big jar. As it hit the ground, this object which had appeared to have so much mass dissolved into nothing. Hypnotized by the transformation, I wrote a text and pierced it from a pair of vessels:
All of the important possessions of my race and of my ancestors can be contained within these two vessels.
I’d pierced the illusion of mass.